Student Well-Being

5 Social-Emotional Skills Kids Need to Lead Healthy Digital Lives

By Arianna Prothero — April 19, 2022 2 min read
Image of a person using technology.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The pandemic supercharged the amount of time kids spent learning and having fun online and on digital devices. It has also led to a surge of interest and investment in social-emotional learning in schools.

But social-emotional learning curricula and programs aren’t always adapted to teach students how to apply the social-emotional skills they are learning in school to their digital lives. Educators, experts say, should not assume that students are automatically applying the social-emotional skills they are learning in school to their tech use.

So, as social media, virtual learning, and our ever-present devices are here to stay, what skills do students need to navigate their tech-driven worlds?

Here are five key social-emotional skills students need for the digital age, according to experts who spoke with Education Week:

  • Self-awareness, or the ability to examine their own behaviors and feelings, helps kids recognize how technology might be negatively affecting them. Does social media make them feel bad about themselves? Is too much screen time causing them to miss sleep or forgo spending time with families and friends in-person? Is a piece of emotionally-charged content trying to trick them into sharing something or spreading false information?
  • Social perspective-taking helps students consider how someone they’re interacting with online or through text messages will interpret something differently based on their unique perspective, background, information, or context. Because it’s harder, and often impossible, to read someone else’s body language through screens or text, perspective-taking conditions students to think through how their behavior will be received by someone else even if they can’t see their reaction.
  • Empathy, or being able to pick up on and understand how someone else feels, is key to maintaining healthy relationships online. Empathy is an important skill to help students remember that there is a human being on the other side of the screen—something that’s easy to forget when interactions aren’t taking place face-to-face.
  • Self-regulation helps students control their impulses. Because emotions can easily override good decisionmaking, it can be all too easy to click first and think later, commenting or sharing a video, meme, or article without evaluating the accuracy or the repercussions of their actions—which can range from hurting a friend’s feelings to sharing disinformation about vaccines or the war in Ukraine.
  • Responsible decisionmaking is an important skill for students to evaluate and make careful choices about their behavior and social interactions online. This applies to more immediate situations but also, just as importantly, to thinking through the long-term repercussions of behavior. Students need to be thinking about what they might say on social media today and how it could jeopardize a job or scholarship opportunity in the future.


Special Education K-12 Essentials Forum Innovative Approaches to Special Education
Join this free virtual event to explore innovations in the evolving landscape of special education.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
STEM Fusion: Empowering K-12 Education through Interdisciplinary Integration
Join our webinar to learn how integrating STEM with other subjects can revolutionize K-12 education & prepare students for the future.
Content provided by Project Lead The Way
School & District Management Webinar How Pensions Work: Why It Matters for K-12 Education
Panelists explain the fundamentals of teacher pension finances — how they are paid for, what drives their costs, and their impact on K-12 education.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being What the Research Says How Teacher Stress Management Is Crucial for Handling Student Mental Health
A Chicago program helps teachers learn how to manage their own stress in classes with more easily triggered students.
4 min read
Notes from students expressing support and sharing coping strategies paper a wall, as members of the Miami Arts Studio mental health club raise awareness on World Mental Health Day on Oct. 10, 2023, at Miami Arts Studio, a public 6th-12th grade magnet school, in Miami.
Notes from students express support and share coping strategies at Miami Arts Studio, a public magnet school for grades 6-12, on Oct. 10, 2023. Studies find teachers need training to navigate their own stress while managing classes with high-need students.
Rebecca Blackwell/AP
Student Well-Being By Some Measures, Students' Well-Being Has Been Stable for a Decade, Study Shows
A Stanford report examined high school students’ well-being, sense of belonging, and engagement over more than a decade.
5 min read
Tired schoolboy fell asleep on a class at elementary school.
Student Well-Being Opinion What Should Students Do Over the Summer?
Educators share tips for keeping kids off their screens and mentally engaged over the long break.
3 min read
Young girl reads a book with cat in the garden. Summer holidays illustration.
Student Well-Being Opinion What's Behind the Explosion in Student Absenteeism?
Kids aren’t returning to school after COVID. What are the implications for policy and practice?
8 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty